Commissioners discuss subdivision rule change
GROVETON – A proposal to require developers to pay certain water connection fees for new subdivisions was discussed Monday by Trinity County Commissioners. The fees involved include a portion of the meter fees required by water companies when a new housing development is being built. County Attorney Joe Bell raised the issue when commissioners were conducting a plat review for a new development to be located off FM 356 near Sebastopol. It was noted that last year an issue arose in connection with the Twin Oaks subdivision that was being developed off Pinecrest Road south of Trinity. Bell noted that the developer, Ted Garrison, met the county’s existing requirement when he furnished a signed contact with a water company – in this care Trinity Rural Water Supply Corporation – which indicated water would be available to each of the lots in the new development. However, after the county approved the plat authorizing the developer to begin sales, the water meter fee specified in the contract was not paid and Trinity Rural declined to connect the development to their system. “This is something that we need to address,” Bell said, adding that insuring new housing developments will have access to water, sewer and electrical services is a primary goal of the county’s subdivision regulations. When asked what could be done about the situation at Twin Oaks, Bell said anyone who purchased property there could have grounds to sue both Garrison and possibly Trinity Rural. He added that the county also could bring suit. While no action was taken directly about the Twin Oaks situation on Monday, commis-sioners agreed to reexamine the subdivision regulations and possibly require developers to either show proof that the meter fees have been paid or show commissioners a certified check payable to the water company. In the case of the subdivision plat being presented for review on Monday, the commissioners approved it subject to receiving proof of the fee payment. This means that if the fee is not paid, the plat would be invalid. The plat given tentative approval Monday was for the Pine Forest Acres subdivision being developed by Pete Garland off FM 356 across the highway from Port Adventure. Garland told commissioners he is developing 24 new lots plus one existing home on the property. The meter fee charged by Trinity Rural to the developer is $875 per lot or $21,000. Additional water meter charges would also be assessed to the people who purchase the lots when they actually connect to the Trinity Rural system. “I did attempt to pay the fee to Trinity Rural but they said they could not accept it until the county approved the plat,” Garland told commissioners. He told commissioners as soon as the county approved the plat, he would present the payment to the water company. He added he would have no problem providing the county a copy of the receipt for the payment. “I have no doubt that Pete will get that done,” Pct. 1 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham added. Worsham, in whose precinct the development is located, said he has been working with Garland to ensure that road and drainage issues are property addressed and indicated the developer is seeking to develop a top notch subdivision. Garland noted that while the paved roads would be built to county specifications, they would not be added to the county road system. He noted Pine Forest Acres will be a gated community and the roads would remain private. In addition to presenting the contract from Trinity Rural, Garland also furnished a statement from the Trinity River Authority indicating all of the subdivision lots would be large enough for individual septic systems. A letter from the Sam Houston Electrical Cooperative also was presenting indicated that electrical power would be available to all of the lots. Grant sought for environmental officer During the meeting, commis-sioners also authorized County Judge Mark Evans to file for a $20,000 grant to help create the position of environmental enforcement officer The county had sought a similar grant last year but did not win the funds. If the post were created, the full-time environmental officer would focus on illegal dumping on county roads and would work with subdivisions and property owners groups in the enforcement of nuisance laws on vacant properties. Bell suggested and commis-sioners agreed that if the officer also were given the duty of regulating the county’s licensed trash collection companies, it might add weight to the application and give it a better chance of winning approval this year. Other Business During their meeting Monday, commissioners also: • Authorized Pct. 1 Constable Woody Wallace to use donated funds to pay the $183.40 cost of a spaghetti dinner held at the FM 356 Volunteer Fire Department as part of a Neighborhood Watch program. Commissioners also briefly discussed how to handle donated money and Bell noted that unless the donor specifically indicates how the money is to be spent, donations are added to the county’s general fund and can be used at the commissioners court discretion. He added with small donations, the donor can indicate on the memo portion of their check where the money is to be used. He advised that if a large donation is received, officials obtain a more formal written agreement. • Received the annual Trinity County Historical Commis-sioner report from its chairman, Susanne Waller. In the report, Waller asked the commissioners to consider making some minor repairs to the county-owned Trinity County Museum and the Kate Bell Research Center. Evans indicated he would have the county maintenance staff look at the items requested and either make the repairs them-selves or report back on what would be needed. • Approved proclamations and resolutions designating April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and County Government Month and April 27 as Conservation Day in Trinity County in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service. • Approved leases with the Trinity Independent School District and the Trinity Memorial Hospital District for them to use county-owned Automark voting machines during their May 8 elections. • Agreed to pay $223.81 to renew the county’s membership in the National Forest Counties and School Coalition. Evans, who serves on the coalition board, noted this is the group that is working to have the U.S. Congress renew legislation dealing with tax-exempt federal forestland. Currently, the U.S. Forest Service pays counties and school districts fees every year to offset the loss of property tax income. This year Trinity County’s share of the forest fee was $248,674, all of which has been allocated to the road and bridge departments. • Learned that the Kickapoo Park located off Highway 287 east of Groveton will be formally dedicated at 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 29. The county recently rebuilt the roadside park using federal forest money.